Krondor: the betrayal. Book 1 of the Riftwar Legacy by Raymond E Feist (HarperCollins Voyager, £10.99, 352 pages, trade paperback; published 15 March 1999.)
The two old washer-women gossiped in the mystical realm.
"I sees dark and dangerous forces is stirring on the 'orizon once more."
"Ain't they just! What with that Night'awks Assassins Guild murderin' again and them dark elf Moredhel buggers up to summat, there's every bloomin' type o'trouble a purely background character like meself can imagine. I fears for the safety o' the good realm o' Krondor we lives in."
"Griselda, me old fanny, you's as right as ever you were. Why, if t'weren't for a brave band o' mavericks that been thrown together by the fickle winds o' a publishing tie-in I wouldn't given a goblins bobbins for our chances!"
"Aye, it's fortunate that of all the folk in the land two of Prince Arutha's best men should run into a raw young magician wi' precious small idea o' 'is talents; and that renegade Moredhel chieftain turnin' traitor to 'is own people an' givin' up vital information about a planned elven invasion - that were a bit o' luck if ever there were one!"
"Ye didn't think it were a bit too lucky, did ye Griselda me old scrubber?"
"Whatever's ye mean, Bertha?"
"Well, I dunno. Do ye not reckon it were a bit, ye knows, obvious?"
"Funny things like that does happen, Bertha luv. You knows that. Why, what about when yer favourite washin' stone turned out to be the mighty stone'o'power o glockenspiel, an' we 'ad to 'ide it from 'is dark majesty Xylophony the Atonal, an' your old husband turns out to be 'is arch-foe and keeper o' the scared peace for all eternity. And blow me, weren't it pure luck your comfy little 'ovel turned out to 'arbour the dragon king of suburbia beneath it 'oo 'ad the other mighty stone o' power with which you could defeat Xylophony's evil 'ordes. What about that?"
"That's the trouble - it were a bit too lucky, weren't it. A bit very bloody very lucky indeed. And me point is that I'm not so sure I buys all this Krondor: The Betrayal business either. I mean, all this runnin' about the kingdom cuttin' down goblins and elves and assassins and thieves in record numbers, takin' the occasional nick or wallop, all the while gatherin' evidence o' dark plots and intrigues set to stagger the 'ole realm. I mean, 'ow do all that work?
"Well, it just do, Bertha old love."
"I dunno. Maybe I'm gettin' too meta-fictional for me own good. I ain't denying it were a right rollickin' tale o' swords and magics, an' it did while away the time, but it were just all a bit too a bit too linear for me, Griselda gel."
"Er, I ain't followin' ye, luv."
"It all works too neat, all them pieces o' the puzzle clicks into place too nicely like, There's all that, ye knows, deus ex machina. Now I liked the raw young magician wi' precious little idea o' 'is talents, for example, and good luck to the young gent; but that Raymond E. Feist fellow what told you 'bout it, 'e 'ad 'im like 'e were on a conveyor belt goin' through that tale.
"Er Conveyor belt, Bertha?"
"Shush gel, I'm talkin'. 'E 'ad 'em all on a conveyor belt! They'd bang into other bits o' the tale but that there conveyor belt just kept on goin' and goin'. If summat were needed in the tale, up it'd pop, all o' a sudden like. I prefers me tales wi' a bit more o' a tangle in 'em. Like I says, a bit less linear, like."
"I enjoyed it, Bertha, luv."
"I s'pose you did at that, Griselda gel. And what do that tell us then?"
"Pass us some more o' that boar-fat soap, luv."
Review by Stuart Carter.
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© Stuart Carter 24 April 1999